Do you ever find yourself working on your laptop, concentrating on a piece of work and “ping” your email notification pops up? You click on it to see what it is, and whether it needs your attention and decide to quickly write an answer to the email when “ping” another notification pops up. You leave the first email and see what the second one is about in case it needs answering straight away.
This one requires you to open a spreadsheet to work through some figures so you do that when “ping”, “ping”, “ping” – several notifications pop up in short succession, so quickly you can’t even get to them in time. The day continues like this and by the end of the day you have 10 unfinished emails or more, several started documents and in-progress spreadsheets and feel totally burned out. On top of that you know that you’ve worked hard but have nothing to show for it, as nothing has really been finished or accomplished. It’ll take you several more hours to finish everything off and you feel you’re more behind than when you started in the morning.
If this describes your typical workday, you are not alone. You are at the mercy of your email notifications and concentration and focus is something you can only dream about. You are constantly multitasking (which is a really bad thing, by the way), trying to accomplish everything at once, getting between nothing and not much done in the process.
Yet, the solution is so simple:
Turn. Your. Email. Notifications. OFF!!!!
I can promise you, nothing bad is going to happen if you do.
Unless people’s lives depend on it (and I mean that literally) you don’t need to jump on every email as soon as it has reached your inbox. You can finish what you’re working on, then go into your email inbox and deal with what has arrived in the meantime. And be able to deal with those in peace as well.
Email notifications are among the most insidious and intrusive interruptions that we have created. The original idea was probably quite benign – let people know when they have received an email, so things don’t fall through the cracks. Sounds so innocent. But it has become the bane of our working lives.
If you turn your email notifications off, you will feel a bit odd for a short while, you will almost miss being interrupted, but in no time, you will realise that you’re getting so much more done. You will actually be able to finish what you started. You will be able to concentrate. You will go to your inbox and deal with everything as you need to, in peace and on your terms, not the machine’s.
Take back control of your working day and turn those blasted things off. You don’t even need to thank me – knowing that I have saved another human being from burnout by “ping” is all the thanks I need.
PS: Not sure how to turn them off?
If you use Outlook, go to Files – Options – Mail and untick all 4 boxes in the Message Arrival section. Click OK to confirm.
For Gmail go to Settings, All Settings, then scroll down to Notifications and choose Mail Notifications Off (or “None” on mobile).
PPS: So how often should you deal with your incoming emails? Ideally you’ll only them process them 3 times per day (once in the morning, once around lunchtime and finally before you finish for the day). For very reactive jobs, that might not work so you could choose either once per hour, or whenever you have finished another piece of work. This will put you back in control.
PPPS: I know I mentioned multitasking being bad – is that really true? Yes! It will not improve your productivity; it will reduce it by up to 70%. It’s as bad for getting things done as working under the influence of a lot of alcohol or even marijuana. If you don’t believe me, do a little online research. Scientists have worked this out for us, and the reports are all over the web.
If you would like weekly tips in your inbox about how you can save even more time and make the most of the your workday, you can subscribe to my Weekly Newsletter. As a little Thank You, you will also receive my awesome Weekly Productivity Planner template.